Malaysian Muslim woman pleads for government help to renounce Islam

A Malaysian Muslim woman pleaded to the Government to help her to become a Hindu, saying that she was trapped into becoming a Muslim by a twist of fate at birth.

The plea by the 26-year-old ethnic Indian, who asked to be identified only as Jamaliah, came two days after the country's top civil court ruled against Lina Joy, who had wanted the court to sanction her conversion from Islam to Christianity.

Jamaliah told reporters she was crushed by the Federal Court ruling that only Malaysia's Islamic Shariah court can legally sanction a Muslim's conversion - highly unlikely given that apostasy among Muslims is a crime in Malaysia.

"I don't want to be a Muslim. All this while I've been living life as a Hindu and I only want to marry a Hindu man," Jamaliah said. "I want to change my religion but the court's ruling in Lina Joy's case has shattered my hopes for a future."

She said she tried to commit suicide last week after her Hindu boyfriend of six years tried to break off their relationship because there was little chance of them marrying. He must convert to Islam to legally wed Jamaliah as marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims is not allowed.

Jamaliah said her boyfriend finally broke up with her on Thursday after hearing the verdict in Joy's case, which was seen as the ultimate test of how much freedom Muslims of Malaysia have to leave their faith.

She said she feared reprisals from Islamic authorities for publicly declaring her desire to leave Islam, which could include detention in a prison-like rehabilitation center.

Jamaliah's life is bound by a series of coincidences. Her father converted from Hinduism to Islam so that he could take a second wife, a Muslim. Jamaliah was born to his first wife, a Hindu, in 1981 after her father's conversion.

She was abandoned by her mother shortly after birth and was brought up by her father and Muslim stepmother. For that reason, she was registered as a Muslim, although she began practicing Hinduism when she was old enough to pray.

Her stepmother supports her desire to become a Hindu, said Jamaliah, who also goes by the Hindu name Priya.

Although the Malaysian Constitution allows freedom of faith, it says Islam is the official religion.

It also follows a dual justice system - the Shariah courts administer the family and personal affairs of Muslims, who are 60 percent of the 26 million people, while civil courts handle the affairs of the Hindu, Christian, Buddhist and Sikh minorities.

In cases of religious disputes, the civil judiciary has mostly bowed to the Shariah courts even though the Constitution does not say which has the higher authority.